On January 22, Fox Creek, Alberta was struck by a 4.4-magnitude earthquake. While the earthquake caused neither significant property damage nor injury, it did shake residents up. More importantly, it brought up the ongoing debate regarding the cause of the seismic activity.
The science is still out on the definitive cause of the quake, but preliminary research by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) suggests it may have been linked to hydraulic fracturing. If the industrial oil and gas extraction practice is too blame, it will be the largest fracking-induced earthquake on record.
AER spokesperson Ryan Bartlett wrote in an emailed statement to VICE, “Preliminary information indicates the event may be related to hydraulic fracturing.”
When asked what the “preliminary information” is, Bartlett responded with another email, “The occurrence of a cluster of earthquakes preceding the larger earthquakes suggests it is an induced earthquake. It is, however, impossible to definitively state it was not a naturally occurring event.”
Fracking is a long-used process of extracting oil and natural gas from deep-seated rock formations. In order to extract the hydrocarbons, you have to break up the rock. This is done by injecting a “fracturing” fluid containing a mix of substances at a high pressure.